August 5, 2021

✪ Implementing Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training for Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents (DBT STEPS-A) in a Low-Income School


Carla D. Chugani, Courtney E. Murphy, Janine Talis, Elizabeth Miller, Christopher McAneny, Daniel Condosta, Julie Kamnikar, Edward Wehrer, & James J. Mazza

University of Washington affiliated authors are displayed in bold.

✪ Open Access

Published: August 2021

Read the full text in the open access journal School Mental Health


Adolescents living in low-income areas often have high need for mental health supports due to experiences of poverty and trauma, coupled with limited access and availability of such supports. This study investigated the implementation of a socio-emotional learning curriculum titled, “Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training for Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents (DBT STEPS-A),” which was integrated into health classes in a low-income high school.

While preliminary evidence suggests that DBT STEPS-A can be effective in reducing mental health symptoms in high school students, this study is the first to explore the program’s acceptability, appropriateness, and feasibility when implemented in a low-income school. The implementation presented here also diverged from recommended training protocols due to time and cost limitations. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from 29 school stakeholders prior to implementation and from 23 school stakeholders post-implementation.

Our results indicate that DBT STEPS-A is acceptable and feasible for teachers involved in offering the program and that more work is needed to address appropriateness of the content for racially and socio-economically diverse students, ease of implementing lessons, and support for teachers using DBT STEPS-A skills outside of class. We conclude with a discussion of key implementation challenges and solutions generated.

**This abstract is posted with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License**